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Gas-phase Förster resonance energy transfer in mass-selected and trapped ions

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Förster Resonance Energy transfer (FRET) is a nonradiative process that may occur from an electronically excited donor to an acceptor when the emission spectrum of the donor overlaps with the absorption spectrum of the acceptor. FRET experiments have been done in the gas phase based on specially designed mass-spectroscopy setups with the goal to obtain structural information on biomolecular ions labeled with a FRET pair (i.e., donor and acceptor dyes) and to shed light on the energy-transfer process itself. Ions are accumulated in a radio-frequency ion trap or a Penning trap where mass selection of those of interest takes place, followed by photoexcitation. Gas-phase FRET is identified from detection of emitted light either from the donor, the acceptor, or both, or from a fragmentation channel that is specific to the acceptor when electronically excited. The challenge associated with the first approach is the collection and detection of photons emitted from a thin ion cloud that is not easily accessible while the second approach relies both on the photophysical and chemical behavior of the acceptor. In this review, we present the different instrumentation used for gas-phase FRET, including a discussion of advantages and disadvantages, and examples on how the technique has provided important structural information that is not easily obtainable otherwise. Furthermore, we describe how the spectroscopic properties of the dyes are affected by nearby electric fields, which is readily discernable from experiments on simple model systems with alkyl or π-conjugated bridges. Such spectral changes can have a significant effect on the FRET efficiency. Ideas for new directions are presented at the end with special focus on cold-ion spectroscopy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMass spectrometry reviews
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Mass Spectrometry Reviews published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

    Research areas

  • cold ion spectroscopy, conformations, Förster distance, Förster Resonance Energy Transfer, gas phase, mass spectrometry, microenvironmental perturbations, polarization effects

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